Nevertheless

One of my favorite words in the English language for a number of reasons is “nevertheless.” I love the sound of it, the delicious way its four syllables slowly roll off the tongue. (The word “nevertheless” in French, néanmoins, is even more delicious, I think: It requires puckered lips, as if for a kiss.) The English “nevertheless” also reminds me of that magical locale, Never-Never Land, a dreamy childhood place that’s far from adult-size rigid realities.

It seems to me that when we use this three-words-squished-into-one adverb “nevertheless” in a sentence it’s as if we’re signaling to make a soft turn in a more positive direction. Better than “but,” it means “even so” or “all the same” or “regardless,” when connecting partially contradictory statements. It comes from the Middle English “neverthelater,” a word meaning “despite anything to the contrary” and “notwithstanding.”

“Nevertheless” strikes me as a wise word, too, with other-worldly powers. Something along the lines of “abracadabra!”  There you are, barreling along (in your mind) downhill, when you opt to apply the brakes. Enough of this, you think, and then you decide to change course. Upward.

Here’s my most recent example:

Leaving Taos last week – at the height of its glittering, glorious Indian Summer weather, before the winter cold and snow set in, and saying goodbye to all of my cherished Taos friends – was difficult to do. As a single, retired woman on a tight budget, I really don’t know when or whether I’ll ever be able to return. I was feeling understandably blue as I flew away. Then, on my last flight back to Mexico, I was given a “nevertheless” uplift.

The view from my window, flying back to Mexico at sunset last Wednesday

Yes, I said to myself, goodbye is always sad to say. Nevertheless, you now live in a place that is beautiful, colorful, affordable, embracing, and, best of all, boasts your preferred weather — sunny-and-warm – year round. Mexico has given you a new lease on life. You are one lucky, independent, seventy-three-year-old retiree!

Then, like magic, I felt better. This “nevertheless” talking-to changed my outlook and attitude, gave me a fresh turn of mind. Instead of dwelling on my past and losses, I became grateful for my present blessings.

So here’s my WOW advice: Next time you’re having a bad day — as we all do, of course, from time to time — begin a whole new sentence, aloud or on paper, with the magical word “Nevertheless…” I guarantee that sooner than you can say “abracadabra!” you’ll be feeling much, much better.

~ ~ ~

My poetry-loving friends will particularly like this poem, “Nevertheless,” by Marianne Moore. I especially love its last six lines:

Nevertheless

you’ve seen a strawberry
that’s had a struggle; yet
was, where the fragments met,

a hedgehog or a star-
fish for the multitude
of seeds. What better food

than apple seeds – the fruit
within the fruit – locked in
like counter-curved twin

hazelnuts? Frost that kills
the little rubber-plant –
leaves of kok-sagyyz-stalks, can’t

harm the roots; they still grow
in frozen ground. Once where
there was a prickley-pear –

leaf clinging to a barbed wire,
a root shot down to grow
in earth two feet below;

as carrots from mandrakes
or a ram’s-horn root some-
times. Victory won’t come

to me unless I go
to it; a grape tendril
ties a knot in knots till

knotted thirty times – so
the bound twig that’s under-
gone and over-gone, can’t stir.

The weak overcomes its
menace, the strong over-
comes itself. What is there

like fortitude! What sap
went through that little thread
to make the cherry red!

24 thoughts on “Nevertheless”

  1. So, most days bring a ray of sunshine. But if one day does not, you know the next day will. And speaking of sunshine, attending your reading at SOMOS and get a warm hug from you was a blast of sunshine that was the greatest!

    Loving you book! Sara Jean

  2. Amazingly helpful to me on a gloomy day in NYC: Nevertheless, I sally forth to fill a seat empty due to someone’s ill health for a performance of My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center. Xoxo

  3. Yes…we are in the land of “nevertheless”…a place where we can grow and stretch, leaving behind what held us back (including our self-imposed limitations) from the years before. In spite of all that was…we grow…nevertheless!

  4. Hi Bonnie:

    In the last 24 hours :
    I

    1. I dreamt of you. You were elegant in a highly fashionable pink suit.

    2. I referenced the time when you “fixed me up” with that
    accident prone woman I later designated, “ the ant lady.”

    3. I love the néanmoins word for nevertheless. My french
    brother in law says the french never use it. It is antiquated.
    Comme moi, je pense.

    Sounds like you are having a wonderful time and enjoying the launch of you latest book.

    All the best.

    Ted

  5. I’m sure you’re not surprised to find that I loved this piece, Bonnie. Not just for the linguistic turn of the tongue provided by nevertheless but your insights into how it can also turn the mind—toward grateful, peaceful attitudes. And that photo is sublime! Nevertheless, wouldn’t it make a fabulous watercolor?

    1. Ah, Barb, yes, when I took that photo I had “watercolor painting” in mind! I still might attempt that, but it’s certainly quicker and easier to post it online. Nevertheless, I won’t give up on the watercolor idea! 🙂

  6. Bonnie, thank you. I now have an expanded use of the word. In the past I thought of nevertheless as the word you use after someone interjects something unrelated or contradictory into a story or information you are in the middle of telling to get the conversation back on track More polite to say than . . . Well, anyway.

    1. Thanks, Lyn. Yes, that’s what I love about words — they can be so supple and elastic, meaning different things at different times to different people. Not like numbers, which I’ve always found to be cold and rigid. 🙂

  7. I’m leaving Cerrillos, NM, on February 14 to begin a new life retired, in Riberas del Pillar, Lake Chapala, MX, along with my senior dog. I’ll turn 70 nine days after arriving. On a budget. Lot’s of anxiety today – so much to sell and donate, and then the timing……do I stay in an empty house until it’s time to go??!! Thanks so much for this….needed today.

    1. You’re so welcome, Lucille. I wish you all the best as you make this big transition. You might want to read my previous WOW posts about retiring to Mexico. I like to think that others will find them helpful.

  8. A needed boost…feeling sad myself to be leaving family far from home…in Tacoma, and will use your prompt when my plane takes off
    Thursday….nevertheless. Gracias.

  9. I never quite appreciated how delicious, and almost spiritual “nevertheless” is. I agree, it is a word of gratefulness – of chin up, head held high, as someone else said – of the glass half full. It is a word that includes the possibility of looking at a situation another way – of allowing space for the positive qualities in a person who, at the moment, is driving you craz.
    And you do look quite fashionable in your blue dress and San Miguel (can’t walk in them) shoes.

  10. Dear Bon,

    What a wonderful essay. I will never see nevertheless the same way again. I’m saying it right now to see if I can pucker in English as well as in French.

    Love,
    Paul

  11. A flash back…we spoke about these 2 words a long?long?time ago. I loved the way you pronounced Néanmoins and I love the way you always think of the positive in the negative. I love the way you write too. It is a real pleasure to read your posts every week even though I don’t always leave a comment;
    Love
    ML

    1. Ma chere M-L — Well, you certainly have a far better memory than I! But I’m not surprised that we once rolled those two delicious words (in English and in French) around together in France. — Merci, BB xx

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